Lake District Rescue: Gadgets & Gizmos before Mountain Safety?


Lake District Rescue: Gadgets & Gizmos before Mountain Safety?


Man rescued from Scafell Pike area in 100mph winds & torrential rain after SPOT activation

Lake District Rescue: Gadgets & Gizmos before Mountain Safety? 

Lake District Rescue. Gadgets & Gizmos before Mountain Safety?
Maybe. Maybe not.


By Andy Luke

It's been a while since I've written any new material for the site, but today I read a story first on ITV news, then on Grough, and it urged me to put pen to paper, so to speak. Take a read:


Both stories major on two points: the weather was awful, and the walker activated his SPOT satellite messenger. I'm sure too that some readers would wonder what the hell the man was doing up there, alone, in that weather. Wind speed was reported to be 100mph, with driving rain and bursting becks.

At just after 3pm on 3rd Dec 2015, the 34 year old male activated his SPOT device, thus making his emergency situation known, and so too his location. He was found by Wasdale MRT, and evacuated to Borrowdale by Keswick MRT. Langdale Ambleside MRT were also called to search. Well done teams!

The provocative title is no doubt what some people will think when reading the stories, and it would be so easy to criticise this chap for venturing out into the hills in such poor weather, but neither article tells us anything about his experience or equipment or the reason for his emergency. So we cannot criticise. I've been out in horrendous weather, and with appropriate planning it can be fine. There does some a point tho, when the most appropriate outdoor activity for the day is a trip to the shops!

Let's work on a couple of scenarios:

1. He was experienced, knew what he was doing, was well kitted out, but had an accident or such.


If this was the case, it could just be one of those situations of bad luck.

Personally, I took a brief fall a few weeks back on Great Gable. A millisecond of inattention meant my left leg slipped violently to my right on a greasy rock and sent my 13 st plus kit downwards at a gravity proving velocity, landing on left outer thigh. It hurt. A lot! It was also a reminder to me that I don't want to make a habit of falling over, but consoled myself in the knowledge that I last fell over about 20 years ago. Aside from being a little embarrassed to myself about falling, made me think about and justify the kit that I tend to carry, especially in more remote areas. 

2. He was not experienced enough, got the weather forecast all wrong, got lost and had to call for help


I have a suspicion that this scenario could be the more likely one, tho again, I do not know.

My thoughts on this scenario:
  • Ten out of ten for the walker having a SPOT device, and dry & working mobile phone (and lucky to get a signal from Calf Cove). The message got to ARCC via satellite, and his location was known. For just over a hundred quid, plus subscription equivalent to less than a tenner a month, these devices can save your bacon. Read more here
  • There was no mention of hypothermia setting in, so one can assume that his kit was pretty good and kept him dry. I wonder if he had a storm shelter, or survival bag, and if he did, whether they were used. Escaping from the harsh external environment could be a life-saver in that kind of situation, especially in a group. If you had to wait a while, the combination of storm shelter & a Blizzard survival bag would keep you warm.
  • His mobile phone worked, and it was chucking down, so he must have had it in a waterproof case of some kind.
  • Did he check the weather forecast?
  • Was his route appropriate to his level of experience & ability?
  • Does he know that wind reported by the BBC et al at low level can be double that at high level, as the air is forced upwards over a mountain?
  • Did he have an emergency plan and tell anyone where he was going?
  • Did that person - his Emergency Point of Contact - know what kit he carried, and what to do in the case of his non-return? Or, was her relying on technology for his get-out-of-jail-free-card?
  • Can he navigate? In such harsh conditions, alone, it is essential. Having a compass and map, in a map case and tied to your rucksack too! 
  • Did he have escape routes planned?
  • What were his aims for the day?
  • Did he have an over-reliance of technology? Well, some would say that he did, but I'd be more inclined to say that he got in trouble and thankfully had two methods of emergency communication, which reduced the time that 21 MRT members were out looking for him, thus reducing their exposure to harm. How many emergency comms devices do you have?

...and I'm sure you can think of many more questions.


SPOT

SPOT devices have been around in the UK for about 7 years. I became interested in them, and bought one, because I was planning a week of walking alone in the Scottish Highlands, and that was a different proposition to my home-ground of The Lakes. What if I needed help in the back of beyond, no mobile signal and no one to hear my whistle? SPOT was the answer, for emergencies and sending OK messages back home. I would recommend that solo walkers should carry a SPOT, or similar satellite communicator. Read more here.

Do not confuse SPOT & other satellite messengers with Personal Locator Beacons. They are different. Read more here.

Aside from emergency communication, SPOT messengers are great for tracking your location almost live, meaning that your location is known to within a few minutes. Invaluable if your EPOC had to swing the emergency plan into action, especially if you were in trouble and unable to activate the SOS function.

If you'd like to try a SPOT satellite messenger, take a read here. (NOTE: when I say "try", I do not mean to activate the SOS function!!)

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